The Southern Athabaskans
The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe is exhibiting more than 100 cultural objects dating from the late 1880s to the present and representing the lifeways of the different Apachean groups in New Mexico and Arizona. "Lifeways of the Southern Athabaskans" features basketry, beaded clothing, and hunting and horse gear from the Jicarilla Apache, Mescalero Apache, Fort Sill Apache (Chiricahua), San Carlos Apache, and White Mountain Apache—distinct cultural groups that are connected by a common language. This show provides a rare glimpse into the cosmology and daily lives of diverse Apache groups, detailing not only how these items were used in everyday life but also the belief systems and cosmology symbolized in their construction.
The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection
This autumn, two exhibitions of traditional arts from opposite sides of the world will open at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The first is Art of Native America: The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection, a landmark exhibition that will be installed in the museum’s American Wing showcasing 116 masterworks representing the achievements of artists from more than fifty cultures across North America. Ranging in date from the second to the early twentieth centuries, the diverse works are promised gifts, donations, and loans to the Met from the pioneering collectors Charles and Valerie Diker. Long considered to be the most significant holdings of historical Native American art in private hands, the Diker Collection has particular strengths in sculpture from British Columbia and Alaska, California baskets, pottery from Southwest pueblos, Plains drawings and regalia, and rare accessories from the eastern Woodlands.
Good as gold
In the cities of the West African nation of Senegal, stylish women have often used jewelry as part of an overall strategy of exhibiting their elegance and prestige. Rooted in the Wolof concept of sanse (dressing up, looking and feeling good), a new long-term exhibition, Good as Gold:Fashioning Senegalese Women, opening October 24, 2018, examines the production, display, and circulation of gold in Senegal. It explores golden adornment as part of a larger dialogic constellation of identity, nationhood, politics, wealth, and individual taste that is largely driven by women. It also celebrates a significant gift of gold jewelry to the National Museum of African Art’s collection. It is guest curated by Amanda M. Maples, curator of African Art at the North Carolina Museum of Art, and its opening will be followed by a full-length publication in spring 2019.
In the MET AOA galleries, Atea: Nature and Divinity in Polynesia will open November 19, 2018. Atea is a Polynesian cosmological term that refers to the moment when it was believed that light first sparked forth, resulting in the birth of the first generation of gods. This exhibition will celebrate the creative ingenuity of Polynesian artists who drew from the natural world to give material expression to their understanding of the divine. Featuring objects from American collections and the Met’s own holdings, the exhibition will showcase some thirty artworks—figural sculpture, painted barkcloth, rare featherwork, and more—dating from the late eighteenth to the nineteenth centuries. The presentation will provide an opportunity to understand a core principle of Pacific art: The divine is not abstract but very much alive in nature. It will be the subject of a Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin.
The Impermanence of Things
After many months of renovation, the Musée d’Ethnographie de Neuchâtel has entirely revamped its space and is reconsidering its holdings in terms of their wealth and variety, without confining them to purely ethnographic, geographic, ethnic, or functional considerations. It has asked and is endeavoring to answer the questions that twenty-first-century ethnographic collections must pose in order to remain relevant. As a start to this process, the museum has opened a major new exhibition at Villa de Pury titled "L’impermanence des choses" ("The Impermanence of Things"). This show is made up of nine modular spaces in which the museum’s holdings are used to put contemporary questions into perspective. In the “Poids” (Weight) section, Asante goldweights refer to the moral burden of the connection between the history of colonization and ethnographic collections, as well as the power relationships between peoples and the weight of the obsessive hoarding of objects, knowledge, and archives. In the “Plumes” (Feathers) section, headdresses from Papua New Guinea are presented within the décor of a Parisian cabaret, since such items are equated with spectacle and show. “Acteurs, Ambassades, Bazars, Artistes” (Actors, Embassies, Bazaar, Artists) and “Regards” (Views) both emphasize that human beings and material possessions are always changing, as are the ways in which they are perceived.
American Indian images, names, and stories infuse American history and contemporary life. The images are everywhere, from the Land O’Lakes butter maiden to the Cleveland Indians’ mascot and from classic Westerns and cartoons to episodes of Seinfeld and South Park. American Indian names are everywhere too, from state, city, and street names to the Tomahawk missile. And the familiar historical events of Pocahontas’s life, the Trail of Tears, and the Battle of Little Bighorn remain popular reference points in everyday conversations. Pervasive, powerful, and at times demeaning, together these reveal how Indians have been embedded in unexpected ways in the history, pop culture, and identity of the United States and the rest of the world. "Americans" highlights the ways in which American Indians have been part of the nation’s identity since before the country began. Objects range from a 1948 Indian Chief to commercial graphics and promotional items with Indian imagery, to Native American artifacts associated with the Battle of the Little Bighorn, an event that unexpectedly contributed to the “branding” of Indian imagery in Western consciousness. Americans is a thoughtful examination of identity, change, and cultural impact.
Return of Alutiiq treasures
Last July 9, the Alutiiq Museum celebrated a special homecoming: Two Kodiak Alutiiq masks collected by Alphonse Pinart in the nineteenth century were brought from Boulogne-sur-Mer back to their native land of Alaska. This event is one element of a partnership of cultural exchange between France and the United States. Two similar masks were sent from Kodiak to France on a five-year loan, another part of a refreshing story of intercultural recognition and sharing. The masks will be on display in both museums until April of 2023.